Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

By J.K. Rowling

512 pages

A COMPLETELY different experience from the Potter books!  ;)

It wasn't until about page 300 that this novel, focused on ripple effect of the death of a councilman in a small town, started really affecting me.  I was not enjoying spending time with any of the characters, and then, as the small but devastatingly powerful events started pulling the characters together - as they started interacting in new ways, meeting each other, and ripples from each newly formed relationship started affecting other relationships -I truly saw what Rowling was trying to do.  This is a story of the interconnectivity of human lives, the biases we form and don't analyze, our tendency to coddle and excuse the beautiful and ignore and abhor the ugly. It is about finding good in everyone, and our excuses for judgement.  Powerful stuff, beautifully non-magical and heart-breakingly real. 

The Search by Nora Roberts

I had only listened to the audiobook versions of the "In Death Series" by Nora Roberts but was given this stand alone paperback by a friend.  Fiona Bristow trains rescue dogs and their humans. She's also the lone survivor of a serial killer.  I loved reading about how Fiona uses play to train the dogs. That aspect of the story was more interesting to me than the search for the killer! 456 pages.

Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse read by Susan Duerden

Yet another book about a pilgrimage! Joanna is the young servant girl of Margery Kempe, a famous medieval holy woman.  When Dame Margery is divinely inspired to journey to Rome, she demands that Joanna accompany her. Joanna must cook, clean,wash and mend clothes not only for her mistress but for all the other nobles traveling with her.  Will Joanna ever make it back home? Will there be a home for her to return to? Was the real Margery Kempe the hypocrite portrayed in the book?  Unabridged Listening Library audiobook.  223 pages.  6 hrs. 44 mins.


By Veronica Roth

496 pages

I sought out this series after a friend recommended it.  Reminiscent of Hunger Games, this YA title features a dystopian society divided into five factions after many wars:  Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Each year every sixteen year old in the city (built on the remnants of Chicago) must choose a faction to which they will devote their lives.   Each contributes a valuable service to their society, and the choice is made more weighty in that faction is valued above family, and the choice means a separation from parents and siblings if the teens choose to not stay in their home faction. 

Beatrice, the heroine, is presented with a unique and dangerous decision.  Her decision, and the initiation into her faction, reveal some surprising strengths in herself, and some treacherous plots brewing amongst the factions.

This fast-paced tale was an enjoyable read...I'm currently on the waiting list for the second in the series!


I read the previous book in this young adult fantasy series last year, THE FARWALKER’S QUEST because my granddaughter read it and liked it.  The “farwalker” of the novel is Ariel, a young woman kidnapped and taken away from all that’s familiar to her.  It’s a coming of age story.

The most recent story of her adventures with her guardian, Scarl, her friend, Zeke and two new characters is not as compelling to me.  My granddaughter concurs.

Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2010.  340 p.

SECOND WIND, Dick Francis

Bought this book for 50 cents at the recent SOS book sale and read it quickly.  I was drawn to it because the author is an award-winning mystery writer that I’d not read.  This novel is a crime story but the crime itself was less interesting to me than the lead character who’s an English weather man who agrees to fly into a hurricane with a fellow weather man, who’s more a matinee idol than his more serious colleague.  It has lots of meaty detail about wind shear and the functioning of a two-passenger airplane.

GP Putnam’s Sons, 1999. 293 p.

WINTER GARDEN, Kristin Hannah

Another book sale purchase, this author, new to me, also a New York Times bestselling author.  This novel is two stories in one.  The contemporary story is mother-daughter conflict and husband-wife conflict; the author writes this part believably enough but this genre’s not really my thing. 
I stuck with the book because of the second intertwined story of a Russian émigré (the mother in the first conflict).  The author uses the device of “story telling” within the contemporary tale and the “story” is written in italics so it’s easy to figure out. 
The émigré’s story is riveting as it tells the story of the winter siege of Live during World War II.  I was aware of the extraordinary number of Russian casualties during this war, the second to devastate Europe and the adjacent countries but  I had never before read an account like this told from the perspective of a young mother with two small children.

St. Martin’s Press,  2010.  391 p.


Why you might wonder was I reading a novel written in 1955?  I was reading an magazine article about “film noir” and there was a picture of the actress Lillian Gish in the role of Rachael Cooper in the movie adaptation made in 1955.  The article also described how terrifying Robert Mitchum was in the role of Harry Powell, a truly evil man, a serial killer of women, who ultimately stalks two small children because he knows they are key to his finding money a fellow convict was found guilty of stealing and was hanged.

The children are nine year old John and Pearl, his 4 ½ year old sister.  The novel evokes the isolation of rural America in the middle of the 20th century and the grinding despair of a life of poverty.  It also evokes a time of belief in clear lines between good, God-fearing folks and the evil fallen ones.  The children are on the run following Powell’s murder of their mother and are taken in and ultimately saved by the actions of Rachael Cooper, described as “old yet ageless”.  Rachael faces down Powell in an extraordinarily written show-down in the dark night of her isolated cabin.

Harper and Brothers, 1953.  273 p.
P.S.  This is the movie image; my borrowed print copy had one of those wonderful pastel commerial binder covers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

On May 7, 1933, Seattle has a major, unseasonal snowfall. A single Mother, who has had to leave her three-year-old son alone while she works an overnight shift, slogs home in the snow to find him gone. She is poor, and the police don't take her seriously, listing him as a run-away.  He is never found.

Segue to present-day Seattle: another major snowfall on May 7th. A newspaper reporter is given an assignment to find a human-interest story that will link the two unusual weather events. Her quest leads her to the story of the missing boy, and she sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to him.

This book isn’t so much a conventional mystery as it is a book about family and relationships and communication. In the end, the mystery is resolved. I really enjoyed the book, but the editing left something to be desired.  The word smirk appeared so frequently, and often inappropriately, that  it was a distraction. However, the plot was interesting, and the characters well drawn, so all in all, a good read.

320 pages

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

The Dragon is reborn! Rand al'Thor has raised the standard of the Dragon and proclaimed that he is the ancient hero Lews Therin Telamon reborn to save the world and break it once more. But still he doubts his destiny and what must be done. Escaping his companions he begins a long and dangerous trek to the nation of Tear. Once there if he can seize Callandor, the Sword That Cannot be Touched, the whole of the world will know him as the Dragon Reborn and even he will be unable to deny it.

By far the best of the series, The Dragon Reborn has an urgency that many of the other books lack as nearly the entire cast of characters races after Rand in a desperate attempt to reach Tear. The book differs from the first two in that Rand is barely in it at all, instead leaving most of the action to the secondary characters giving them the chance to shine. The book also introduces the book to the last major additions to the story's cast and settles a number of the relationships between them.

Pages: 624

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

Rand al'Thor has discovered that he can channel the One Power, and as a male channeler he is doomed to go insane and die a horrible death. But first he must contend with the power of destiny and forces of darkness beyond his comprehension.

The second book in The Wheel of Time series, The Great Hunt sets out to substantially flesh out the story and setting created in the Eye of the World. A substantial improvement over the previous book, the Great Hunt solidifies many of the ideas and concepts that will be seen in much later books. Jordan seems to finally decide how he wants his world to work and where it is going. New to the second book is the increasingly greater roles that the secondary characters play as the story unfolds and every character grows in depth.

Pages: 656

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Murder List by Julie Garwood

Hotel heiress Regan Hamilton Madison agrees to help gather evidence against a self-help guru who preys on vulnerable, wealthy women. At one of the self-help sessions, the group attendees are encouraged to write a murder list - a list of people who the writer wishes were dead because of the pain or hurt they have caused. Imagine Regan's surprise when the people on her list start dying. Enter detective Alec Buchanan who is assigned to protect her. This book is more romance, than suspense. A fairly quick read. 425 pages.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Inn at Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber

Jo Marie Rose has lost her husband of three months and decides to leave Seattle to open a bed and breakfast in the coastal town of Cedar Cove, WA.  This book is told in first person from her viewpoint and in third person about her first two guests, Abby and Josh.  All three of them are dealing with past disappointments and heartbreak.  Abby and Josh both grew up in Cedar Cove but have purposely stayed away for many years.  She has returned for her brother's wedding, and he has returned to check on his dying stepfather.  One thing I found curious was that although they are about the same age and are Cedar Cove natives, they do not know each other.

This was an easy read but not very deep.  Conflicts seemed to resolve themselves too easily, unlike in real life.  There were enough loose ends to tie over to the next book as this is the first in a new series.  (This was an advance reader's edition that I picked up at MLA.)  330 pages.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Death of Kings, by Bernard Cornwell

I've enjoyed following this series that tells the tale of the beginnings of Saxon England through the eyes of Lord Uhtred, a Viking warrior who comes to serve King Alfred the Great.  This story, the sixth in the series, begins in 899 A.D., the year of Alfred's death. King Alfred's death takes place at the beginning of this story, and so we follow Lord Uhtred, now a middle-aged warrior, as he defends the fledgling England from invading Danes and other rivals for the throne, which has been awarded to Alfred's son, Edward. Uhtred is a fun character, all man and thoroughly pagan, which makes his devotion to Alfred, the Christian, very unusual.  The stories are filled with lots of gritty battles, but are also solidly steeped in the political intrigues of the day.  Uhtred, the Danish pagan, also allows Cornwell to show the contrast between the beliefs of the Danes and the Christian views, at times to humorous effect.  Cornwell is a very convincing writer, and brings this period to life.  320 pages

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Christmas Rogues

This book contains historical romances by three authors: Anita Mills' The Christmas Stranger, Patricia Potter's The Homecoming, and Miranda Jarrett's Bayberry and Mistletoe. Each story features a man who needs reforming - as only the love of his life can do. They were quick, okay reads. 364 pages.

Traveling Light by Max Lucado

This book takes a closer look at Psalm 23, going verse by verse and sometimes word by word. I learned some things about shepherding that I never knew, so this favorite psalm of many now makes more sense. Included at the end is a study to help you make connections to other parts of the Bible as well as apply the text to life today. Not one of my favorite books by Lucado, but it still made me think and grow.  220 pages.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Timber Creek by Cameron Judd

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Getting a job on a trail drive was the start. A few friendships a few enemies and a person to kill. Pride leads to many decisions, guilt also leads to many decisions.  

Print:  240 pages.
Audio:  4 hrs. 30 min.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Believing the Lie / Elizabeth George

Although predicated on a fairly weak plot device (feigned invitation to investigate a suspicious death), George does not disappoint readers eager for more of the adventures of Thomas Lynley, Barbara Havers and company.  Each "lead" into the suspected death unveils a web of lies in each branch of the family tree.  Truly a tangled web.  The book is 608 pages long, but left me wanting more in typical George fashion.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spinning by Michael Baron

Dylan thinks he has it all - a good job, status and women galore. He is a smooth talker who spins situations to his advantage. Then one day Diane and her daughter, Spring, come into his life. Dylan soon discovers what he has been missing and that sometimes spinning plates crash. The story made me smile and laugh on occasion. It also has its tragic moments. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I'll definitely look into others by the author. 304 pages.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Somehow I missed this title when growing up. Haven't seen the movies, either. But I have heard middle school girls excitedly recommend it to one another. So I decided now is the time to see what it is all about. The March family are poor in wealth, but rich in love. In this first book in the series, the father is off to war and the mother, four daughters and Hannah, the maid, are tending to hearth and home. The center of the story is the four girls. Each of the girls has a clearly defined, unique personality. Jo is a tomboy who longs to be an author. Amy is an artist. Meg wants to be a refined lady. Beth is the conscience of the group. Alcott skillfully draws us into their lives as they have the typical sibling rivalries and learn the moral lessons that still apply today. This edition also includes an interesting introduction of the author. I shouldn't have waited so long to ready this classic! 528pages.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Evil Under the Sun

by Agatha Christie

This is an Hercule (I'm Belgian - not French) Poirot novel.

Who killed the femme fatale who left the wreckage of so many relationships in her wake? Hercule is supposed to be on holiday, but that doesn't preclude him from investigating.

print: 220 pages

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Beguiling the Beauty" by Sherry Thomas

Venetia Fitzhugh Townsend Easterbrook is a twice-widowed young woman known well in London for her great beauty.  She's also an amateur paleontologist, having discovered the fossils of a Cetiosaurus when she was 16.  Christian de Montfort, the Duke of Lexington, a naturalist and paleontologist, has been in obsessive love with her from a distance for many years but has never acted on it.  Rumors about her deceased husbands led him to believe the worst about her, and he says so during a lecture on evolution.  Unfortunately, Venetia was at the lecture, and, while not directly naming her, she is shocked that she's elicited such venom from a man she's never formally met.  Her revenge is unique and works to a point, but it also backfires.

The author made me emotionally invested in the characters early on, so it was difficult to read about their conflicts and purposefully hurtful actions, but that's what makes a good and memorable story.  296 pages.

"The Bride Wore Scarlet" by Liz Carlyle

The St. James Society is a pseudonym for the Fraternitas Aureae Crucis, a group of men dedicated to protecting those with the Gift of paranormal abilities.  Anais de Rohan is determined to join them, not only because, like them, she has the Gift, but because she's been groomed to do so for the past 10 years.  First she must convince Geoffrey Archard, Lord Bessett, that she deserves to be a member, so she joins him on a trek to Brussels to rescue a young girl with the Gift from the hands of an evil politician out to kill her mother and use her abilities for his own profit.

This was an unusual story with two very honorable and likable leads.  Anais and Geoff have struggled with their paranormal abilities and their dedication to their respective families, but the rescue of an innocent girl focuses them and helps them see what is truly important to be happy.  375 pages.

Crocodile on the Sandbank

by Elizabeth Peters

This is the first book in the series following the exploits and adventures of the redoubtable Emilia Peabody Emerson. In this book, we learn how Emelia discovered a love of Egypt and archaeological excavation, how she met her husband, and how they thwarted a number of evil plots.

print: 273 pages

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke

A slick murder mystery that serves as a debut for a new series featuring Irene Kelley, a reporter and amateur detective in southern California. Here, she investigates the murder of a reporter friend, who had been investigating an unsolved murder from 35 years ago.  Of course there's plenty of action and plot twists.  The story has engaging characters and settings, making for a fun read.
256 p.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Princess Pig by Eileen Spinelli

One day, during a parade, the sash worn by the ‘Pickle Princess’ blows off and wafts its way across the farm, landing on Pig. Pig decides she must be a princess. Pony doesn’t believe it, but the other barnyard animals do, and start to treat her like a princess, giving her pretty princess pies, decadent bubble baths, fluffy pillows and singing her to sleep. Pig is in heaven!

But – wait. She discovers that princesses aren’t allowed to sleep late, roll in the mud, or attend barn parties attended by the common folk. She decides that Pony may have been right when he said, “It’s a fine thing to be a pig, if a pig is what you are.”

This is a delightful book for children 5 and up.

40 pages

The Bloodletter’s Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) by Linda Lafferty

This is a historical novel, loosely based on a murder that took place in Cesky Krumlov, outer Bohemia, in the early seventeenth century. At that time, barbers were also barber-surgeons, or bloodletters. The villagers relied on the barber to relieve their ailments by balancing the four "humors."

Marketa Pichler is the daughter of the town bloodletter, or surgeon. Even though girls can’t be surgeons, Marketa’s father teaches her everything he knows, and she becomes his assistant. When Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, exiles his mad son, Don Julius, to Cesky Krumlov, the bloodletter is enlisted to cure him of his madness by purging the vicious humors coursing through his veins. Marketa accompanies him, and Don Julius becomes obsessed with her. Marketa, both frightened and fascinated by the handsome royal, can’t stay away.

This is a suspenseful and dark story set in a period in which the entire world was constantly engaged in war. The backdrop of the story is the internecine fighting for the Holy Roman Empire. Not for the faint-of heart.

512 pages